TweetFace

Resistance is futile. I’m required to twitface.

Alright, already! I did it – connected this blog to a Twitter account (@ridiculouswidow, because someone already had ridiculouswoman) and Facebook, where I recreated a page for it, which was no small feat, because Facebook’s soulless algorithm didn’t believe I was me.

It thought using my logo as the profile picture on my personal page, which I have to have to have a Page page, which is the only way WordPress can be connected to Facebook to automatically post your posts on a Page, was “suspicious.” It said the first post I added, which said I created the account so I could have a Page, violated “community standards.”  It seemed to think I was impersonating myself and locked the new account. It asked me for a photo that looked like me, and I sent one, and it still didn’t believe me, and disabled the new account, thereby destroying two hours work in setting up the page.

Facebook, dear, I am not some Russian bot loosed upon your bandwidth to wreak havoc across the land. I’m a short, stout, suburban widow who writes a blog. Is that so hard to believe? I almost decided not to bother trying again.

But resistance is futile.  I must have a “platform,” that virtual thing you stand on to convince literary agents and small publications that you’ve got something people might want and your writing is worth a look. Ergo, I must have a social media “presence.”

Things haven’t been going well on the job front or the query front, so I figured I’d better get serious about building the “platform” –

I’m working to overcome my social impairment enough to think of something to tweet and people to follow, and to gather some new readers, commenters, and “likers.” I hope to build a larger community of wonderfully,  um…eclectic people (that’s enough italics for today, old girl) out there who actually enjoy reading what I write, even if the subject matter is a little all over the place.

Because in addition to the problem I identified with my book (no grand social themes, except cancer and autism, which affect more and more people every day, and love and death, which affect everyone), I’m not the “marginalized voice” they all seem to want (except for my age).  I have also belligerently deliberately avoided strictly confining myself to a “niche” like all those “how to succeed in blogging without really writing” pundits demand – I want my “niche” to be 800 words of something worth reading. Oh, and a few published books, so I can legitimately add “author of…” to my bio (and someone will add it to my obit, when the time comes).

I decided when I started this blog that, although I would write about grief and life as a widow, I didn’t want to be a “professional widow” – I want to be a writer – an engaging, entertaining, occasionally heartstring-plucking and often, I hope, funny, writer.

So, the “Twitterverse” and the Empire Facebook will now have the benefit of my blatherings, or links thereto, at least.

Starting with my next post (I thought we decided enough!)

Because I’m pretty sure if I post this to Facebook, their soulless algorithm will shut me down again, just for saying I don’t like Facebook. Today as I was setting it back up, it thought it found “suspicious activity” in my account again, and made me prove who I was two more ways before it let me back in. So I put the actual photograph I cartoonified to make my logo on there as my profile picture. See, Facebook? That IS me! (oh, all CAPS now?) Take that, Facebook!

There are a lot of not-nice people on social media. But by avoiding politics and “niches”  I hope to interest a few of the nicer people – people who like words, reading, gardening, stargazing, redecorating, failing and trying again, laughing, crying, loving their kids, remembering their lost loved ones, and being gentle in the face of human foibles and frailty.

I hope we can learn something, or share something, or just commiserate along the way.

So, welcome, Tweetie birds, and hello, again, Facebook friends, if you manage to find me.

After my next post (well, the CAPS were too shouty!)

But this one is just for you guys – current followers of this blog, some of whom have been with me since the first few posts – it’s a comfort (and a bit of a thrill) to know you’re on the receiving end of this, and, I hope, actually reading it and enjoying it from time to time. And liking, commenting, sharing with others who might.

Stepping reluctantly, tentatively and fretfully into, or back into, the social media morass, I remain,

Your skeptical, resistant, but biting-the-bullet and getting it done,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by ijmaki from Pixabay

Washer, Wasps and Weeds

Words while I wait.

Yesterday,  workout, downstairs. Find Angelic Daughter in the laundry room, putting dripping wet clothes into the dryer.

Accuse her of pressing “pause” on the washer to speed the job.

Put dripping clothes back in washer.  Press “drain and spin.”

Hear horrible grinding noise, followed by normal spinning noise.

Washer switches off. Lid unlocks.

Voila, DRIPPING WET CLOTHES.

Apologize to Angelic Daughter for false accusation. And for tone in which it was delivered. BAD MOTHER.

Accept that the washing machine is broken. Oh, YAY.

While considering which card I can scrape enough credit off to pay for repairs, decide to do the yard work, still all sweaty from the workout, ensuring one shower, not two.

What planning!

Agenda includes tree trimming, and raking out one section worth of Creeping Charlie from the “lawn.” The crab tree by the deck reliably blooms profusely each May.  Mike was much better at shaping it than I am (it helped that he was 10 inches taller than me). My efforts this spring resulted in a wedge- shaped tree, high at the back, sloping down to a sort of newsboy-cap brim, instead of the lovely globe Mike used to achieve.

Got out the ladder and the long-pole trimmer. Nipped those dopey-looking branches sticking up at the top, that I couldn’t see last time because the blaring sun was in my eyes. Cloudy morning today, just right.

As I nipped and snipped, I noticed a bloom of bugs coming out of the tree. Buzzing. Bees! Yay me! Saving the pollinators!

Except when I got around to the other side and looked up through the branches, I saw something like this:

paper-wasp-2225117_640

And the “reptiles,” as Dr. Maturin would call them, crawling all over it didn’t look like ordinary bees. For starters, they were mostly black.

Abandon tree trimming until species of reptile is identified by shape and nature of nest.

Just then, neighbor, also out to do her yard work, calls to me, identifying what I have come to refer to as “nasty viney weed” on her side of the fence, but technically still on my property. Yes, of course, pull it out!

Never one for half measures, she takes a blowtorch to it.

Walking over to observe, I notice that there is a proliferation (oh, my, aren’t we full of vocabulary today) of nasty viney weed (nightshade — eeewwww!) strangling about a third of the woodsy perimeter of my yard, where it reliably appears each year, and where I laboriously pull it out a few times a every summer. Ineffective, but there’s too much good stuff near it to use the blowtorch method. Repetition of the laborious pulling is the key. Clearly I have been slacking on that.

An hour later, with two yard waste bags full of nasty viney weed, about 15 mosquito bites on each cheek (not talking face here) and a plethora (oh, my, proliferation AND plethora – alliterative vocabulary, how impressive) of scratches from the sharp needles of the spruce trees I had been rummaging around under, pulling nasty viney weed out by its roots, it’s shower time. No Creeping Charlie removal.

Washed and rinsed (but not spun), I make a spinach and Swiss omelet using fresh spinach from my garden.

Time to consult the all-knowing internet vis-a-vis reptile nest. Find that ‘the bald-faced hornet constructs a papery nest with a cap on top and a hole in the bottom, which will grow in size as the colony grows. This is an aggressive species with a particularly painful sting. Do not attempt to remove on your own. Consult a professional.’

Sigh. Calculate how much MORE credit I can wring from that card.

Consider leaving the nest undisturbed until it freezes because ‘the colony will die in winter and the nest will not be reused,’ but it is in the crab tree, close to the deck, and near the vegetable garden.

Contact reptile removal company. How much? That much?! And you use insecticide to kill them first (yes, ma’am, see “particularly agressive, painful sting,” above) then you come back a few days later to remove the nest?

You’ll keep that nasty wasp killing stuff off my veggies, right? And you won’t kill the good bees and butterflies that come to the front garden I planted specifically to attract them?

This morning, instead of raking Creeping Charlie, I placed the soaker hose around the squash growing in the former chicken run, while waiting for the call with the “window” of time when I must wait again for the reptile remover.

And the washer repair guy isn’t coming until next Friday.

Sigh.

Washer, wasps, weeds, waiting and words.

At least I like one of those things.

Waiting, watering and writing, I remain, your resigned-to-her-fate,

Ridiculouswoman

Washing machine image by ITAK_studio from Pixabay

Wasp’s nest image by Bernell MacDonald from Pixabay

800 Words

There are signs, and then there are Signs….

The day I wrote about losing confidence in my writing, I discovered a television series called “800 Words.”

“It’s a sign!” I thought.  The show is on the Acorn channel (British-y programming). It’s about an Australian columnist, a widower with two kids, whose column always comes in at exactly 800 words.

That’s a game I love to play, too. He even uses the same trick of hyphenating-things-to-count-as-one-word.

It’s more about grief and the stupid impulsive decisions (often stupid financial decisions) you make when coping with loss.

Sound familiar?

I watched the first episode of the first season and was hooked.

And then I discovered I had to pay a subscription fee to watch the rest of it.

Curses! I coughed up my Roku account and subscribed.

More money spent that I shouldn’t be spending, without a day job.

That sent me into another spiral of anxiety and doubt.

How could it be a sign? Yes, I like to write blog posts of exactly 800 words –  but my book is 60,000 words.

The protagonist on the show actually had a job as a newspaper columnist, left it, and was coaxed back.

I’ve lost or had to leave jobs I wanted and was never, ever “coaxed” or asked back. It was more like “don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Buh-bye.”

My recent job search experiences make me feel like I couldn’t buy a job – if I had any money to spend – which makes me more anxious about getting a job.

I’ve got an idea for a business, bought the domain, and I’m hoping to get a website designed and the business going by September.

But the numbers for this blog (over 5,300 views and 2,300 visitors, but only 162 followers) indicate I suck at social media self-promotion.

I’m going to have to force myself to return to Facebook to build pages for this blog again and for my new business. AAAAAK!!

I’d rather curl up in a little fetal ball and pull the covers over my head, but as I lie there whimpering, I’d be picturing myself wearing a name tag, saying things like, “would you like fries with that?” or “have you tried our new spicy shrimp?” or “can I get you that dress in another size?”

Between the morning workouts and the yard work and the house work and grocery shopping and the meal preparation and the caring for and helping Angelic Daughter, I can’t seem to find the time to write more than one or two blog posts a week, and no time at all to search for other places to submit writing for a chance to get paid.

Much less apply for that glorious future name tag job.

All the job search engines I’ve got going keep sending me jobs that have nothing to do with me.

LinkedIn seems to think I’m a nurse or other health-care worker, just because I’m looking for jobs in non-profits, and there’s a big non-profit hospital near me.

Glassdoor keeps sending me technical writing jobs that I probably could do but I’m sure I’d never get hired for, and the idea of making a mistake writing technical manuals or pharmaceutical label information sends me into paroxysms of anxiety.

All the NPO’s want fundraisers (“development” people) but asking people for money makes me squirm, and researching how much money people might have to give makes me feel like a creepy voyeur.

I indulge in silly rescue fantasies, typically involving younger men who know how to do things, and who are willing to do them for me, for free.

And who then move in and pay for things.

While also making wild, passionate love to me.

Hey, I said it was a fantasy.

I’ve figured out what’s wrong with me, and what went wrong in my career, but I can’t fix the past and the past follows me everywhere I go.

I try to focus on the now – on the incredible, cool air we have today, on the squash blossoms growing in the former chicken run, on the green beans starting to come in.

But I spend more time feeling frustrated by the dozens of bean seeds I planted that haven’t sprouted at all.

I’m a whiny, self-doubting mess.

The ancestresses are getting restless – I hear them telling me to get my ass outside and weed something. Not self-improvement, but yard-improvement, at least.

Perhaps other improvements will follow.

And as for signs?

Just as I was editing that line about anxiety and doubt, a monarch butterfly fluttered down and landed on the beans.

The ones that are growing.

Thanks for the Sign, Mike – of love and understanding – and the reminder to enjoy this beautiful day and stop taking myself so seriously.

Because what matters is now.

About-to-get-sweaty-and-dirty-and-feel-virtuous-about-it, I remain,

Your calming-down,

Ridiculouswomann

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

A Hose, Two Fans and a Thunderstorm

I grew up in a brick house with no air conditioning.  We used box fans in the windows and a sprinkler in the back yard (usually surrounded by neighborhood kids in bathing suits, waiting their turn to “run through.”)

For the past twenty years I’ve lived in another house without air conditioning. It has thick plaster walls, two layers of siding (some past owner just slapped vinyl over wood, and we left it alone) and a floor plan similar to that childhood home, where my brothers and I could run or ride a tricycle in circles around the ground floor while Dad played “Sweet Georgia Brown” on the piano. We called that “the running song,” and thought it was fun to zip past Dad, through the hall and kitchen, dodge the dining room table, scream and laugh our way through the front hall and then back past Dad in the living room.  After I became a parent myself, I realized Dad played “the running song” to tire us out so we’d go to bed. He was a genius at stuff like that.

When Angelic Daughter was a toddler, I bought her a Red Flyer trike, so she could do  circles in this current house – past the living room fireplace, through the kitchen, left through the library/dining room, across the front hall and then around again.

We’ve just come through three days 94-98 degrees (F) and very high humidity. No joke and very dangerous if you live an a brick-oven building in the city without air conditioning.

But we’ve got a yard, a garden hose and two fans – one box fan:

box-3998721_640

 

and one newer one, that stands on the floor and rotates.

Upstairs, there are three smaller ones, each with two fans that can be switched from “intake” to “exhaust.”

Friday night, the “exhaust” setting just couldn’t keep up with the heat.

So I set up the cot downstairs –  the cot I bought for Mike to use, if the heat became too much during that last summer. But he couldn’t lie down flat without excruciating pain, so he tried to use another “lounger” I bought, a cheap bench sort of thing, that could sit up like a pool chaise. But he couldn’t get comfortable on that either, no matter how we adjusted the pillows. It was rock hard.

The visiting hospice nurse took one look at him on that thing and said, “this is not under control. I’ll send an ambulance and get you into the hospital.”

So Mike got two days of blessed relief in air conditioning, adjusted pain meds, and a good break from the stress of being home and needing my help all the time.

That damn rock hard lounger was one of the first things to go. But I kept the cot, in case  a brother or a guest might need to stay over one night.

Last night, that cot gave Angelic Daughter respite from the upstairs bedroom heat. I slept on the couch, where I slept while taking care of Mike, in the front room where we had set up his hospital bed when he came home after his brief stay, so he could watch TV and eat dinner with us.

Around 2 or 3 in the morning, still sweaty and not sleeping, I stepped outside on the deck and noticed that the breeze had picked up.

It’s coming, I thought – relief.

It cooled off enough for me to open the ground floor windows (and still feel secure, since I was right there) and use the fans to draw in some fresh, slightly cooler air.  The forecast said it would be 85 by 7 am, so I shut them again and closed the drapes by 6:45, when the temperature began to climb.

Smoothies for breakfast: frozen yogurt, berries and cream in the blender. Voila.

Salad bar in the air conditioned grocery for lunch.

And the garden hose after 3, in the shade from the cedars outside my desk area window. Blessed lake water still icy cold in July. Squished around in a wet bathing suit for half an hour, and then the storms hit – torrential rain, thunder and lightning – and a temperature drop of 20 degrees within an hour.

Windows back open, despite the downpour, to take in that delicious, rain-cooled air.

Memories and moments like these free me from obsessive worry; they help me remember Mike (inventor of all our strategies for keeping cool in this house through the hottest heat waves) with love and gratitude, instead of pain, grief and regret.

For now, the heat is gone, the storms have blown over, the birds are singing and the yard is green.

May you stay cool and find your calm after whatever storms blow over you.

Yours,

Ridiculouswoman

Fan image by Katie White from Pixabay

Hose image by Renee Gaudet from Pixabay)

 

Too Old and Too Expensive

The door closed. So where’s that open window?

“… at this time we are moving forward with other candidates that more closely fit our needs.”

This email came ten minutes after I finished screaming at reprimanding Angelic Daughter for WRITING ON MY NEWLY PAINTED WALL and then removing every privilege, excursion and cherished food I could think of from her foreseeable future, replacing them with cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and REPAINTING SAID WALL.

Well, karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?

The bullshit factor just rubs it in, because this is what they say when their lawyers have instructed them never to tell you the truth, to wit,  “you’re too old and too expensive.”

This was the second time in as many months this has happened to me – the callback interview went really well: I really thought I had this one in the bag. And just as I was thinking it would be another week or so before I heard, WHAMMO, the buzzer sounds.

Thank you for playing, NEXT!

The clock has also run out on me with the two agents I pitched at the Midwestern Writer’s Agent Fest – one who requested the full manuscript of my book right there at the pitch, the other who said she’d look at my query.

Pocket vetos, both.

So on a day when I screwed up badly as a Mom and feel horrible about it, I was rejected from a job I thought I had for sure, my confidence in my writing has sunk to a new low.

I know the problem with the book – in a very crowded market, a memoir has to be about something greater than the mere experience of the writer – they want grand social themes – Hillbilly Elegy, or Educated – from “marginalized voices.”

I’m a straight, suburban white woman. About as non-marginalized as it gets.

Except for one thing:

My age.

If there is one universally marginalized group of people on this planet, it is older women.

So much for “yippee! I’m sixty and invisible!”

That has quickly become, “Oh shit, I’m sixty and unemployable.”

And unpublishable too,  apparently.

They see my book as a “me-moir.”  It has to have more universality or social impact than is readily apparent. It can’t just be both heartwrenching and funny.  It has to connect to some broader social theme.

Really? Well, how about this:

There are nearly 12 million widows in the US.

And (pulled directly from the Family Caregiver Alliance website):

  • Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female, and may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males. [Institute on Aging. (2016). Read How IOA Views Aging in America.]
  • Older caregivers are more likely to care for a spouse or partner. The average age of spousal caregivers is 62.3. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]

And the American Cancer Society predicts:

1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths in 2019.

I want to believe that my story could help caregivers feel less invisible, and less alone. Caregiving can be terrifying, exhausting, fulfilling and heartbreaking.

It can drive you crazy. It did me, and made me do ridiculous things, to avoid facing the certainty of my husband’s premature death at just 54.

I don’t feel crazy anymore, just defeated. If I couldn’t land this job, a job for which I simply cannot believe another candidate could have been better qualified, then I give up.

And today I feel like giving up on my writing, too.

It’s going to be 95 tomorrow, 98 on Friday, and no air conditioning. We’ve been through it before, but sitting immobile in a damp bathing suit, periodically hosing oneself down, isn’t conducive to sparkling query letter writing.

And what if, even with my spot-on experience, I was rejected from the job because I blew the interview? How could that be? The interviewer said I was first on her list to contact, and started the interview by just asking me if I had questions. Kept me there meeting volunteers for half an hour longer than I planned.

Did I ask too  many questions? Give too much information? Was it because I explained my need for a little time to find a caregiver for Angelic Daughter?

If it was that, then, I wouldn’t want to work for you anyway.  Feh.

After my previous rejection, my sweet brother sent me this:

“Everytime I thought I was being REJECTED from something good, I was actually being REDIRECTED to something better.” – Steve Maraboli

I’ll hang on to that, and try to believe it, while I clean the bathroom and vacuum the floors.

But Angelic Daughter is going to repaint that wall.

Trying to find my redirection, I remain,

Your disappointed, self-doubting, wanting to find a way to keep trying,

Ridiculouswoman

A Sailboat and a Maid

Cooling off without air-conditioning on a hot day

That’s what I should have said, when the Jeopardy showrunner asked me in March of 2017 what I’d do with any winnings.

I should have just said, “buy a sailboat and hire a maid!”

But I was too long winded. I stumbled through a long recitation of how I had always lived or vacationed near large bodies of water and I was embarrassed that I had never learned to sail. I saw the guy’s eyes glaze over after about 5 seconds.

And I know I missed a question on the quiz they gave us, out of sheer nerves – made the cardinal error of changing my answer, when we all know the first answer you give is usually the right one – or the rightest one you know, anyway.

So I blew my chance to be a Jeopardy contestant.

Today it is 91 degrees and humid, not a cloud in the sky, and we don’t have air conditioning.  I have just finished washing the kitchen floor, cleaning the downstairs bathroom toilet, and doing two loads of laundry. This after my 6 am “30 minute total body workout with (8 pound) dumbbells” on YouTube (bodyfit by Amy)  in the relative cool of the basement, then shower, making breakfast for and driving Angelic Daughter to and from work and then to obtain her salad bar lunch, stepping out into the garden at high noon to harvest enough lettuce for my lunch, and streaming sweat (again) for the five minutes it took to wash each leaf thoroughly.

I am my own maid service, and even though this weekend was the Mackinac race (a sailing race from Chicago up the full length of Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island – pronounced “Mackinaw”) there’s not a sailboat in sight.  Although we benefit from the lake’s cooling breezes, it is two miles away.

On these hot, hot days, we used to just put on our bathing suits, soak ourselves in a cool shower, and walk around wet until we dried off, and then we’d do it again. Or, we’d go outside and use the garden hose to wet ourselves down with still ice-cold Lake Michigan water, and sit under a sun umbrella on the deck until we needed to soak ourselves again.

One excruciatingly hot summer, with multiple consecutive days over 100 degrees, Mike just sat on the deck in his bathing suit with a full bucket of that cold water next to him, that he’d dump over his head as necessary.

As I was toweling lettuce-and-floor washing sweat off, I noticed how it doesn’t bother me at all, to be streaming sweat like that, on a hot day. We’ve gotten used to it, and for years, when we go someplace that has air conditioning, it has been bone-chillingly cold and  has felt artificial and weird.

The house was built in 1948, best I know, and has a remarkable ability to stay relatively cool, as long as we use our “close the windows and the blinds before 8 am” strategy, and keep fans upstairs set on “exhaust.” Strategically placed trees provide shade, and thick plaster walls, insulation. The new windows do a better job of keeping the hot sun out, too.

But none of this keeps me from dreaming of learning to sail, and guiding a small boat of my own to a calm and lovely place on a beautiful lake, dropping anchor and diving in.

I skipped the Jeopardy online quiz this time – didn’t have time to practice and my failure on the first round took the wind out of my imaginary sails.

The caliber of the contestants has gotten so amazing that I’d feel totally out of my league, anyway, even if I ever got on.

But it’s a more realistic way to get a sailboat (and a maid!) than winning the lottery.

And as I write, Angelic Daughter’s new bathing suit arrived in the mail, and she promptly put it on and headed outside, to frolic in the cold spray of the hose.

That’s better than a sailboat, and worth being my own maid.

Off to allow myself to be playfully drenched, I remain,

Your two-or-three showers a day until further notice,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay